What-a-melon: Transform the watermelon into crunchy salads and spicy curries

The sweltering heat in the city demands that we stay hydrated all the time. While drinking water is the best option, consuming other foods, which are in fact tastier, can also have benefits. With the changing weather, one can make the most of seasonal fruits and vegetables – during summer, a standout favourite is the watermelon, with its welcomingly tender, sweet and water-rich flesh.

This melonis a common sight in the affordable fruit plates available outside most railway stations in Mumbai, popular as a quick snack among office-goers. While putting together a fruit plate or a quick fruit juice doesn’t take much effort, for those who have a little more time on their hands and would like to experiment, there are several watermelon recipes beyond these obvious ones.  

Mid-day reached out to city experts asking for interesting dishes that feature the fruit. They came up with ideas for salads and curries that we are sure will change the way you look at the melon.  

The Pink Wink cooler at Loci and Toot is mix of fresh fruits like watermelon, berries and grapes which make it the perfect summer drink. Photo: Loci and Toot 

The Pink Wink by Shivam Sidhwa, restaurant manager, Loci and Toot, Bandra West
Summer is the perfect time to get creative with fresh fruits, says Shivam Sidhwa. The restaurant manager says the establishment uses watermelon in different ways during the summer but if he had to pick one, The Pink Wink is a perfect drink. He explains, “The ingredients blend well together because it covers all the factors of a complete drink – good body, sweetness from the watermelon, tartness from strawberries, tannins from the Californian red grapes and the aroma from rose water.”

Watermelon juice – 60 ml, fresh Strawberry juice/puree – 30 ml, Californian grape juice – 30 ml, blackberry and blueberry homemade compote – 15 ml, rosewater – 10 ml.

1. In a shaker, add watermelon juice, strawberry puree, Californian grape juice, blueberry and blackberry compote and rose water.  
2. Stir with ice and strain in glass. 
3. Serve chilled.

Chef Abhishek Pednekar takes advantage of seasonal fruits like watermelon and muskmelon to make a delicious salad. Photo: Woodside Inn

Duo of Melon Salad by Abhishek Pednekar, chef, Woodside Inn, across all outlets
Abhishek Pednekar, chef at the city-based Woodside Inn, suggests starting simple. This recipe works especially if one has to make a quick dish. Taking advantage of not one but two seasonal melons – watermelon and muskmelon, Pednekar says the salad is not only refreshing but also sweet and savoury. “The soft bocconcini on top of sweet seasonal melons, topped with crunchy berries and seeds, finished with a Mandarin dressing and a balsamic drizzle, make this an interesting salad that is sure to be a summer favourite,” he adds. 

Watermelon – 150 gms, Muskmelon – 80 gms, Malta orange juice – 100 ml, Lemon juice – 30 ml, rocket lettuce – 60 gms, balsamic vinegar – 60 ml, olive oil – 20 ml, blueberries – 20 gms, pumpkin seeds (roasted) – 5 gms, salt to taste, black pepper to taste, red wine – 30 ml, sugar – 15 gms, bocconcini cheese – 60 gms

1. First make balsamic reduction. For that, add balsamic vinegar, red wine and sugar in a pan and reduce it half over medium heat. Keep it aside to cool.
2. Cut the watermelon into thick 1-inch slices and trim the side. Using a round shape cutter, scoop out roundels from the watermelon slice and with the help of a toothpick remove the seeds.
3. Now mix orange juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar, marinate the watermelon roundels and refrigerate it for an hour.
4. Clean rocket leaves and refrigerate. Peel the muskmelon and cut into half, scoop out the seeds from it, cut slices and refrigerate. All fresh ingredients should be chilled before plating.
5. For plating, arrange roundels of watermelon on the base of the plate first, then place muskmelon slices in between them. Now toss rocket leaves in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place on top of it.
6. Cut 3 pieces of fresh bocconcini cheese into half and place it on the watermelon roundels. Now drizzle balsamic reduction on top of the cheese and some on the leaves.
7. Garnish the salad with fresh blueberries and roasted pumpkin seeds and serve chilled.

Melon & Herbs Salad by Arnez Driver, head chef, Sante Spa Cuisine, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East  
Chef Arnez Driver believes the Melon and Herb salad which is served at Sante Spa Cuisine BKC is one for those who are health-conscious. He says it is a perfect nutrient and vitamin-rich salad that is low on carbohydrates and manages to be a healthy yet tasty option during the season. “The natural crunch and earthiness of the herbs, the juicy punch of sweetness from the watermelon, creamy saltiness from the feta, tartness from the balsamic reduction is all brought together with a lime, honey and mustard dressing,” he says. 

Ingredients (Serves 2): 

Green fenugreek leaf – 1 cup, mint leaf – ½ cup, red amaranth leaf – 1 cup, fresh dill leaf – ¼ cup, green coriander leaf – ½ cup, golden garlic chips – 1 tbsp, watermelon dices – 1 cup. 

Organic honey – 1 tbsp, lime juice – 1 tsp, dijon mustard – 1 tsp, extra virgin olive oil – 3 tbsp, salt to taste, black pepper – small pinch.

Feta cheese – 1 tbsp, balsamic reduction – 1 tsp (to drizzle) 

1. Pluck and wash all the herbs thoroughly.
2. Place them in a colander to strain the water and leave in the fridge to cool. 
3. Cut the watermelon into dices or discs and place in the fridge to cool.
4. Take a pan, add a dash of olive oil and slivers of garlic and saute till golden. This creates the Golden Garlic Chips. Allow to cool before adding to salad.
5. For the dressing add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk well till a homogenous liquid is formed. Note the dressing will have a creamy appearance once prepared correctly.
6. Once the prep is done, take a large mixing bowl, add the herbs as well as watermelon dices and toss with the dressing. Ensure all the ingredients are cold to achieve the best result.
7. Empty the contents onto the serving plate and garnish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a generous helping of crumbled feta cheese.
8. The salad is ready to serve.

Monkey Bar`s executive chef Sumit Choudhary says the restaurant uses pickled watermelon with feta to make a delicious salad with peppers and edamame. Photo: Monkey Bar 

Watermelon & Feta Escabeche Salad by Sumit Choudhary, executive chef, Monkey Bar, Bandra West
Watermelon is classically paired with feta, chef Sumit Choudhary says, because they produce a sweet and salty balance. At Monkey Bar, they have added a slight twist, he says. “We`ve added an element of slightly pickling the watermelon, roasting the peppers for the smokiness and using edamame for a lovely texture.” These are accompanied by coriander and basil which makes the salad refreshing.  The fact that salads are cooling and have different flavours makes it ideal for the summer. 

Watermelon (cubed) – 2 cups, jalapeno brine (slightly diluted) – 1/4 cup, assorted lettuce (shredded) – 1 cup, red pepper – 1 no, edamame beans (steamed) – 1/4 cup, feta (crumbled) – 1 tbsp, fresh coriander – 1/4 cup, fresh basil – 1/4 cup, salt and pepper, synthetic vinegar to taste, sugar – around 1 tsp, olive oil – 2-3 tbsp.  

1. Steep cubed watermelon in the jalapeno brine solution for 30 minutes and then drain.
2. Coat the pepper with a little oil, roast in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius till charred, around 20 minutes. Cool, skin and deseed. Cut into cubes.
3. Steam edamame beans.
4. For the dressing, blend together the washed basil and coriander with some olive oil, vinegar and sugar and season well.
5. Chill all the ingredients.
6. Toss all of the above together except the feta. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with feta. 

Every part of the watermelon can be used to make a dish and Shriya Naheta Wadhwa uses the rind to create a mouthwatering curry. Photo: Zama Organics

Watermelon Rind Curry by Shriya Naheta Wadhwa, founder, Zama Organics, Govandi East
A firm believer in zero-waste cooking, Zama Organics founder Shriya Wadhwa says there is more to the watermelon than the fleshy parts. She explains, “We tend to throw away the rind without realising its nutritional benefits. So, the next time you`re about to discard watermelon rind, stop right there and make a quick and delicious curry.” The fact that the fruit is loved by all is an even bigger advantage, especially because they can try this during the summer, in case they are looking to innovate. 

Watermelon rind cut into cubes (remove the tough dark green part) – 4 cups, ghee – 2 tbsp, garlic cloves (minced) – 5 nos, ginger (minced) – 1-inch, red chilli powder – 1 tsp, cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp, coriander powder – 1 tsp, amchur (dried mango powder) – 1/2 tsp, salt – 1/2 tsp, turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp, garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp, water – 1/2 cup, ghee (use coconut if vegan) – 2 tbsp.  

1. Heat ghee/oil in a pan over medium heat and add cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add minced ginger and garlic.
2. After a minute, add red chilli powder, amchur powder, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. 
3. Add in the watermelon rind and mix everything well for a couple of minutes until they`re coated with spices.
4. Add water and give it a mix and let it cook for 10-12 minutes until the rind softens.
5. Add in the garam masala powder and again cook it for a minute.
6. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed rice.

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